Plus or Minus releases one week from today.

My second book is the product of nearly eighteen months of prayer, planning and preparation.

There were about six months where I had the book on my heart, but I had to also put it on the shelf, so to speak. I had to give Cheri time to get on board, and for her, that means months, not days.

When it came time to find couples to collaborate with us, it was more waiting. I waited, because I was not willing to push to get ahead.

The big critique that people have of our generation is that we want everything, namely, we all want to be famous. And we want it now. 

For me, it’s more about worrying that I have done enough with my life. I worry that I have not accomplished enough, not given enough or exerted enough, not exercised enough influence.

But I am learning that enough is not a destination we reach. Enough is a process we do each day.

There was only one day on which I could say “I finished my book.” But there were many days when I could say, “I wrote enough and I am exhausted.”

When our generation pushes and pushes to try to reach all of our goals today, we risk cracking their fragile little shells. Dreams need care and nurturing over a long period of time. They cannot be reached overnight. The way a hen warms an egg day after day until a chick hatches. Or the way we feed Calder night after night, to watch him grow. He cannot do all of his growing all in one day. But we can say he grew enough today. 

Don’t rush your dreams today. Nurture them. Care for them. Pray for them. Treat them gently. If you want to write a book, write enough words today, but don’t pressure yourself to finish. If you are raising a child, take baby steps. If you are building a business, celebrate small victories.

egg

We will all get there together.

Was it a short week?

Around blog-land, it seems like it was. Most of us took the day off for the King holiday. A few of us watched the POTUS on Tuesday. (I did watch some, but I couldn’t make it to the end. Nine o’clock is the new midnight in the Appling house.)

But around the different corners of my blog universe, it amazes me how there always emerge some fresh ideas that encourage or challenge me. Here’s what fueled me this week.

Across the Ocean

It is hard to believe that a year ago, I was in Africa. It is a memory that is still fresh in my mind. Photos of children’s faces hang in my hallway to remind me every day of my responsibility to the least of these.

I went with World Help on a mission to get an infant rescue center funded, and I am so happy to say that today, three new infant rescue centers have been fully funded. When at full capacity, they will pull abandoned children out of the slums and put them on a path to a bright and happy life. I cannot think of many things more gratifying than that.

In My Blog Feed

By far, the most interesting, challenging and universally applicable thing I read this week had nothing directly to do with me. It’s about weight and body image. Now I’ve never had a struggle with weight (though I can’t seem to get back to my high school size anymore), but what Lindsey at The Fearless Experiment writes in Why God Doesn’t Care How Big Your Butt Is…But He Might Care Why is absolutely relevant to every human struggle. Stop looking at the surface of things. Start asking why.

Another word that has always challenged me as a shy extrovert, Hannah Brencher talks about the challenging joy of staying in community.

Emily Wierenga says that we have put pastors on a pedestal, and now they must be taken down.

Finally, Sarah Mae talks about the importance of writing from your own well. When I started Plus or Minus, my publisher thought it would be about 40,000 words. I was scared to death to tell him it had actually become 60,000 words. I was afraid I’d be required to gut everything. But some stories we think are going to take 70k words only need 50k. The point is, we don’t have to make our stories something they are not. We cannot generate an extra 20,000 words to fluff up ourselves, nor do we need to leave out the dark parts just to make ourselves fit. (Plus, Sarah is part of a new venture called Author Launch, which is run by some very near and dear friends of mine.)

That’s what interested, challenged and fueled me. See you next week.

Many of us had the day off on Monday.

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said "free at last," right?

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said “free at last,” right?

MLK Day is a nice little holiday that has absolutely no social obligations attached to it. For those of us who have the day off, it truly is a day off. No family gatherings to attend. No meals to prepare. No gifts to buy.

On the other hand, the day that commemorates one of the greatest Americans in history has been kind of reduced to a throw-away holiday. It’s a day to sleep in and maybe save 20% on a new mattress, which I’m not so sure does justice for a man who gave his life in the name of equality and justice.

Despite all of our talk of “progress,” “acceptance” and “equality” I have become convinced that our culture in many ways has gone backwards, towards division and intolerance. Maybe we need a day like MLK Day more than ever.

These are three things I want to do with my family on a day dedicated to memorializing a great man.

Continue Reading…

It’s the end of another week, and I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to a three day weekend! With a baby in the house, my energy levels are definitely lower by Thursday evening than they were on Sunday evening. (I’m pretty sure I took two naps yesterday after work.)

Ah, but in the midst of all this, there are a lot of good things I was able to be challenged, encouraged and fueled by. Here are a few of them…

In My Wishlist

My pal, Sonny Lemmons posted these “Dads Don’t Babysit” t-shirts, and I’m pretty jealous. I’m just now becoming aware that there is an actual movement of people who want people to stop saying that Dad is “babysitting,” but these shirts are pretty amazing.

On My “Told You So” List

The week’s biggest “told you so” has to be the story of Alex Malarkey, whose story became The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. Well, it turns out he didn’t go to heaven, it was all made up, and he now has some rather remarkable words for the likes of LifeWay and other Christian businesses who profit from this kind of pseudo-spirituality. To be honest, I am surprised that LifeWay and the people aligned with them, who often act as the guardians of orthodoxy and biblical purity, would set aside their convictions so easily for the opportunity to sell hundreds of thousands of books…

…Then again, maybe I’m not surprised.

In My Blog Reader

Finally in my blog reader, a couple of writers seemed to have some similar thoughts as I did this week.

Sarah Bessey laments the closing of Target stores across Canada (though she admits that she never shopped there either) and draws a lot of interesting parallels between the big box retailer and churches (who, as I would say, confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdom of church.)

Anne Marie Miller tells us why the American church, contrary to popular belief, is not going to hell in a handbasket. It’s just that church might look very different from what the “kingdom” establishment wants it to look like.

And on another side of things, Lore Ferguson discusses a tension that I have felt my entire adult life – ambition for quiet Christians. Finally, Kristen at We Are That Family discusses something that I am trying to embrace – the fact that most of our biggest moments are actually very small moments.

That’s it for me this week. See you on the other side of the weekend!

Many people would claim that America is a “Christian” nation…

The most post-Christian place in America...

The most post-Christian place in America…

Or at least, it was a Christian nation.

My news feed is kind of a continual flux when it comes to just how Christian our culture is today. If I want, I can find no shortage of doom and gloom, prophets and pundits who are always showing just how bad things are for Christianity in America. On the other side of things, there are a few lone voices who speak up every now and then to say, “Wait! It’s not as bad as it seems.”

This week, I saw another survey from the Barna Group which shows just how “post-Christian” American cities are. My hometown, Kansas City, comes in at number 38, with a total post-Christian population at 33%. Albany, NY is the most post-Christian city, along with most of the Northeast, while Knoxville, TN ranks near the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it.)

I tend to take these surveys with a grain of salt, but something particularly struck me this time about how we typically measure “Christian-ness.” I started reading their various “metrics” (a term that sounds more at home in a tax accountant’s office) that were used to calculate our cities’ rankings, when something occurred to me.

I don’t know if we have a problem of lack of faith in our culture. But we certainly have a problem when it comes to how we measure faith.

Continue Reading…

Everyone likes an adventure, right?

I think so. Humans live for adventure, whether we think of ourselves as “adventurous” or not. Some of us really do go out on great escapades, conquering mountains, forests or water. Other people find adventure through their ambition and work. Some of us find adventure with our children.

Even when we are not adventuring, humans live vicariously with adventurers, through stories, music, art or film. We crave the fantasy of leaving our little box, as much as we crave the security that the box offers.

I think though, that far too often, we sell ourselves short when it comes to adventures. We think that an adventure is something that we have all planned out. We think we have to have all the tools and skills and itinerary before we set foot. So we plan and plan, and we procrastinate and say “not yet,” because we aren’t quite “ready.” But the biggest, most exciting adventures that any of us have ever had probably had a few things in common:

We stopped planning and just went. We are so interested in the idea of controlling our environment, that we probably forego a lot of adventures, simply because we spend too much time trying to figure out how the adventure will end before it has even begun. None of us know how this life will turn out…well, unless we just stay home. Then it’s a pretty safe bet.

We were not entirely equipped. I love camping stores, but if you have ever been in one, you know, there is a huge market for gadgets and gear, all of which does one thing for the adventurer. We are so obsessed with having every little piece of equipment, every shiny little tool, that we forget that our biggest asset is probably our own ingenuity.

We enjoyed the element of risk. Our modern lives are so sanitized of any feeling of risk, that we have become averse to feeling any at all. But no adventures were conquered without some small risk, some itty bitty, (even imaginary) sense of danger. It is the rush of being on unfamiliar ground that has driven human history. Now that we have traded that pioneer spirit for the comfort of our “man caves,” our own personal histories might become far less interesting.

You know, I was surprised to find someone else who embraced the spirit of adventure.

adventure

Talk about someone who didn’t plan her adventure, was not equipped, and wasn’t even sure where her adventure would lead.

Maybe today is calling you to a new adventure.